During World War II, more than 4350 British Commonwealth, American, and Dutch POWs spent time in Japanese prisoner of war camps on Taiwan. Some stayed only a few months before being moved to other camps in Japan or elsewhere; while others were on Taiwan for the duration of the war.
On September 5th, 1945 - three weeks after the Japanese surrendered on August 14th, Allied ships began evacuating the 1500 POWs that had survived the war in Taiwan. It took four days for the US and British Royal Navy to evacuate all of the prisoners and send them on their way to Manila for medical treatment and care before they returned to their homes again.
On Sunday September 4, 2005 a ceremony was held at Keelung Harbor, Wharf No.2, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the evacuation of the Allied Prisoners of War from Taiwan. The ceremony was organized by the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society.
We were especially honoured to have five British Royal Navy crewmembers who had participated in the evacuation of the POWs 60 years ago come back to join with us for the event. These men: Ken Connolly, Peter Longhurst, Stan Morriss, and Sam Pearsall of the HMS Barle, and Denys Carden of the HMS Bermuda, were only 18 and 19 years old at the time, but they still remembered the emotions of those days. During the week that they spent in Taiwan they visited the sites of some of the POW camps and were hosted by the ROC Navy for a tour of their last US World War II destroyer the ShengYang – DDG923.
The weather was sunny as the group gathered on the dockside and Master of Ceremonies Jerome F. Keating Ph.D. of the Board of Directors of the POW Camps Memorial Society welcomed those who turned out for the event. Michael Hurst MBE, the Director of the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society presented the story of the evacuation of the POWs and the prison camps in Taiwan. Art Scholl, a WWII US Navy veteran who served on a sister ship of one of the US aircraft carriers that took part in the evacuation, read the poem, “A Veteran Speaks;” Larry Mitchell Chief of the Liaison Affairs Section at the American Institute in Taiwan brought a message on behalf of the United States Navy and Marines, and Charles Garrett, Deputy Director-General of the British Trade & Cultural Office in Taiwan spoke for the Commonwealth Nations who took part in the rescue - Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
Following this Lt. General Abraham Lee (Ret.) spoke for the ROC Veterans Affairs Commission. Then the crewmembers shared their thoughts and Denys Carden showed a handkerchief that he had been given sixty years ago by the first prisoner he helped aboard at that time and which he has kept since then as a remembrance of the occasion. Mark Wilkie, also a Society Board member, concluded by reading the poem “What is a Veteran?”
The ceremony ended with the laying of wreaths to commemorate the suffering of the POWs and to honour the brave men who came to rescue them. Closing remarks were made by Michael Hurst. Also present and representing their countries were Steve Waters, Representative of the Australian Commerce and Industry Office, Robert Kaiwai, the Deputy Director of the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office and Gordon Houlden, Executive Director, Canadian Trade Office in Taipei.
On Monday September 5th, the ROC Veterans Affairs Commission hosted a dinner in honour of the veterans. We are grateful to the Veterans Affairs Commission for their interest and continued support of our Society and its work.
We will also not forget the courage of the men of the US and British navies who played such an important part in the evacuation of the POWs. The POWs have always praised the efforts of those who came to rescue them and called them “angels of mercy”. It is these “angels of mercy” that we salute on this the 60th Anniversary of the great task they performed.
The ships that took part in the evacuation:
From the United States - USS Block Island, USS Brister, USS Finch, USS Kretchmer, USS Santee, and USS Thomas J. Gary .
From Great Britain - HMS Argonaut, HMS Barle, HMS Belfast, HMS Bermuda, HMS Colossus, HMS Helford, HMS Tumult, HMS Tuscan, HMS Tyrian and the Tanker San Amado.
From Australia - HMAS Quiberon
From New Zealand - the HMNZHS Maunganui.